Searching for answers, Oregon players point to each other

The Ducks are looking for who's to blame for their 2-4 start to the season. Steve Dykes/Getty Images

EUGENE, Ore. -- After Oregon lost to No. 5 Washington 70-21, Ducks senior offensive lineman Cam Hunt told reporters that he believed 30 to 40 percent of the players on Oregon's roster didn't care whether the team won or lost. On Wednesday, he walked those comments back a bit.

"I think it was a little bit of emotion," Hunt said. "What I was meaning to say was that some guys on the team aren't giving their full effort in that game."

It's still a troublesome statement for a team that has fallen off the national radar as quickly as Oregon has, hinting at a crisis of leadership within the locker room.

Had it only been Hunt's comments, perhaps coach Mark Helfrich wouldn't have had to spend his bye week conducting interviews reassuring the country that his football team is not falling apart. But it wasn't only Hunt who spoke out.

After the loss to the Huskies, on the same evening Hunt made his initial remarks, freshmen Troy Dye and Brenden Schooler echoed those thoughts. Schooler told DuckTerritory.com that some players "just seem like they don't care," and Dye said, "It's just the effort, everyone needs to give more."

During the bye, the Ducks called a players-only meeting -- their second in the span of three weeks -- to air grievances and to try to get everyone on the same page.

Is everyone on that same page yet?

"We're moving in the right direction," redshirt junior offensive lineman Doug Brenner said.

After that meeting, senior tight end Pharaoh Brown sent out tweets last Saturday that sounded similar to some of the other sentiments some players expressed.

On Monday, Brown -- like Hunt -- walked those comments back a bit, telling The Oregonian that the tweets weren't a knock on Helfrich and that he respects the program's process, but he did refer to his and Helfrich's relationship as a "business relationship," which isn't exactly the image a 2-4 program facing questions about its leadership wants to convey.

Two upperclassmen told ESPN.com this week that they question the player leadership on the team, acknowledging that it's very different from previous seasons at Oregon.

"I think we knew who our leaders were during those seasons," one player said. "Now, not everybody knows who that one or couple of leaders are that will guide the team."

For his part, Helfrich recognized that leadership could be an issue this season.

"That was one of the things going into this season, we knew there was a little bit of a void in some of the leadership roles," he said before mentioning that it also hurts the team that some of the leaders the team was relying on, like Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford, have been injured. "That's where we as coaches and some other voices have to step up and fill those voids."

The Ducks have often preached about the benefits of "horizontal leadership," in that members of the program hold one another accountable. This season -- one that has seen Oregon go from being a team full of promise to a 2-4 squad filled with questions regarding coaching decisions and player attitudes -- could clearly use a vertical leader, someone whom players can rally around and who will set an example.

So, who is that guy now for this team?

"That's a good question," one Oregon player told ESPN.com.

It is. It's also one that should've been answered for the Ducks at least six games ago.